Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ganesha Making using Kozhukattai maavu/Rice flour/Eco-Friendly Ganesha using Rice Flour

Yay, finally the last post of the Buffet on Table, Mega BM!!! pheww, never thought i would do it and here i m at the finale!!!! Thanks a ton to my BM Family, for pushing me!!! Hugs to you all!!!
The final post on Bloggers choice, i present you how i made my first ever Ganesha, the eco-friendly way. Ganesha, the Lord of good beginnings, is here to end the September Mega BM post. I have never attempted to make my own ganesha before, coz i know me and art stand in opposite direction. But this Ganesh Chathurthi, seeing many home-made eco-friendly ganesha's i too wanted to try one. 
I have made mine using Kozhukattai maavu/dumpling flour. It is pretty easy to make and all u need a little bit creativity to decorate. Trust me when i say you can do it, when i have made it to look like the Lord, i m sure anybody can do it!!! 
This is the Ganesha i made for Chathurthi, named him Spice Ganesha. I couldn't take step-by-step pictures that time, so i made him again today just for clicks. Hope u like it and try it for your next pooja. 
He is completely eco-friendly, you can say bye to him by dipping him any water body or keep a bowl full of water at home and immerse him there and use the water on your plants. So, lets begin the final post of this BM!!!! :) 

Ingredients
1/2 cup Rice flour
1 cup of Water
1 tbsp of oil
A bit of patience and 1/2 an hour time.
2 or 3  tooth picks for support

For decoration
few cardamom pods for tusks, crown and earrings
peppercorns for eyes
Vermilion or Red food color
Turmeric or Yellow food color

Method

  • Boil water in pan, take flour in  a large bowl. Add oil to the boiling water, take it off the stove and pour it over the flour, stir well using a wooden ladle. All the flour and wter should be well mixed. Keep it covered for 10 minutes. 
  • After 10 minutes, when it is warm enough to touch, collect and knead the dough into a ball. Take a clean pooja plate to place the Ganesha. Now let us start. Hope the pictures are self-explanatory.
  • Before you start, please understand that it is a delicate Ganesha. So, please do not handle him rough. Secondly it is made of rice flour, it is suitable only for 2 day pooja, where we bid him adieu the second day, so do not try this for 5 or 10 day pooja.
  • Keep a bowl of water mixed with little oil by your side, Wet your hands whenever you shape a piece of dough, slightly wet dough sticks better. 









Make 2 such logs of dough for the legs. Shape them like a question mark. Place one on the right side of the gnaesha like a stnading mountain and the other on the left side like a  > shape. 





Make 2 logs like this, shape one like a spoon for the left-hand of Ganesha and other like a spoon turned other way for right hand. place 4-5 small balls of dough on the left hand, to look like he is holding modagams. 

Here your Ganesha is ready, decorate him as you wish. I have used vermilion and turmeric for the decoration. Cardamom pods for the tusks ad earrings. Peppercorns for eyes.





Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Varalakshmi Vratham & Navrathri Kalasam Jodanai/Decoration and Pooja

People who are new to this tradition might find the heading pretty weird, what is kalasam and what do jodanai mean. Kalasam is the symbolic representation of the God/Goddess for whom we perform the pooja. Every big pooja/function in Hindu tradition involves the use of Kalasam.  The Kalasa/Kalasam/Purna-Kalasha is considered a symbol of abundance and "source of life" in the Vedas. The Kalasha is believed to contain amrita, the elixir of life, and thus is viewed as a symbol of abundance, wisdom, and immortality. It is believed to be a symbol of auspiciousness  and thus worshiped in all Hindu festivities and functions from childbirth, marriage, house-warming, and many more festivities which cannot be included in one single post. 
As a Hindu, Navrathri and Varalakshmi pooja are two most important festival to me, for which i wait very eagerly. Reason is,  i personally get to decorate this kalasam/Kalash. The Woman of the house-hold does the decoration/jodanai of the Kalasam. If it is a joint-family, elders in the family will take incharge and rest will take care of other preparations for the pooja.
Now coming to the Decoration, every house-hold has different traditions and rituals when it comes to the jodanai/decoration, As a Tambrahm (Tamil Brahmin), i m listing the way i do.
For us, the kalasam is important for both varalakshmi vratham and navarathi. I do the same way for navarathi too,except for the mango leaves and the thazhampoo/Fragrant screw pine flower, which we don't use during navrathri, as they might dry out during the 9 day festivity.
So, now let us begin. First Varalakshmi Vratham after marriage has to be initiated by your Mother-in-law or any elder in your family, after which you can do the pooja on your own from next year. . By initiation i mean, your Mugam/Goddess face will be kept along with your Mother-in-law's  kalasam. 
Previous day to the pooja, wash, clean and wipe all the pooja vessels. I use a silver pot for the kalasam, which is always kept neatly wrapped in a piece of cloth, along with the Mugam. So, it will be ready to use whenever taken out. But then, i wash  it with little water and soap, and wipe it well to my satisfaction. Some, like my mom, till date use only Brass pot for the kalasam, it depends on their tradition.
The Kalasam for the Varalakshmi pooja is decorated the previous night. It is usually done as the last job, finishing all house-hold work. First let us prepare the place where you are going to place the kalasam and do the pooja.
Neatly sweep and mop the place. Do Ezhakolam/Kolam using rice flour/rangoli using wet rice flour. the corners of the pooja place are decorated with borders and the center where the kalasam is placed is decorated with a padi kolam. Do this a bit early, since it has to dry before placing the other decorations.
We make a setup of mandapam/small temple like decoration. i used my coffee table and placed a plain wooden plank for doing kolams and used my kid's  old study table as mandapam.
The corners of the mandapam are adorned with Vazhaikannu/Baby Banana tree (hope the english translation is correct) and a thoranam of mango leaves,symbolising auspiciousness/Subham.
Next the top of the mandapam ,is decorated with a silk cloth, i use my silk saree to cover it. Now the Temple setup is ready.  Now let us start decorating the main kalasam.
Both varalakshmi vratham and navarthi i  use the Goddess mugam/Face in silver. These days, the mugam/face comes with all the decoration and jewelry,so needs very little touch-ups. 
The List of things to be put inside the kalasam, Keep them ready before starting the decoration.
Rice ( 2 heaped cups)
5 dried dates/ i used normal dates, since i couldn't get any dried ones.
raisins
5 Vetrilaai/Betel leaves
5 betel nut
Vermillion and turmeric (small boxes)
Kaatholai karugamani
one ripe lemon
5 nos 1 re coins/silver coins
The Silver pot is neatly wiped and decorated with Chandan/Sandalwood and vermilliion. Now the list given above is added one by one. 
First the rice, then dried dates, raisins, coins, betel leaves, vermillion and turmeric, lemon, and  kaatholai karugamnai, which is very important.
After all this, a bunch of mango leaves is inserted in the center along with fresh thazhampoo/fragrant screwpine flower then a coconut smeared with turmeric is placed at the mouth of the pot. 
Care to buy a good coconut that will sit nicely on the pot(size matters). Adjust the mango leaves and the screwpine flower to come neatly around the coconut , so it looks like a blossoming flower with the coconut as the center.
The pot is dressed up like a lady by tying a pavadai/skirt around its neck. These days we get ready-made skirts to be used on the kalasam at Giri Trading or every famous shop selling traditional pooja materials.
The goddess face/mugam is inserted into the pot neck at the end of the coconut. Some even place the mugam at the kudumi/fibrous cone-shaped portion on the coconut. But according to our family traditions we do it at the neck of the kalasam.
Next the kalasam is decorated with jewels and fresh flowers. I use a little kajal to add more beauty to the eyes. I also have a pair of thandu maalai with i put at each side of the mugam and a ready-made pearl jadai/hair decoration, which i placed at the back of the kalasam. Now the entire setup would look just like a lady, sitting before you.
Place a plate full of rice on top of the mandapam which is decorated with a silk cloth, Carefully place the kalasam/ambal on it.
Next day morning, the pooja can either be done before raghu kaalam or after raaghu kalam. I usually do after, since i cannot take the tension of doing both the pooja and the cooking simultaneously.
Get ready with the Neivedhiyam first, which usually are Poorna kozhakattai, Raw-rice idly, Sundal, Rice and toor dal, Muparuppu vadai, sarkarai pongal or payasam.
Before starting the pooja, keep all the pooja requirements ready by your side. Keep the flowers for archanai/pooja ready in a big plate/thambalam. Mani/pooja bell, thoobakaal/plate for camphor, camphor cubes, incense sticks, match stick, ghee/oil for the lamps.
We normally Madisaar, while performing this pooja, a simple saree or a decent salwar kameez will also do. Place a big banana leaf inside the mandapam, where the kalasam would be placed with the pointed end facing left-side of the goddess. Place 2 cups of raw rice at the center and spread it as a circle, that is where you will be keeping the kalasam.
Now, put kolam/rangoli at the entrance, where you will be welcoming the goddess. Place a manai/palagai/palaga/wooden plank with kolam, carefully place the kalasam on that plank. Light a small diya/deepam/lamp. Make a small ganapthy/vinaygar using turmeric and do the vinayagar pooja and a small neivedhiyam to ganapathy,  a piece of jaggery/banana. After the thoopam and deepam. 
Chanting these Mantra,
Thirumalin maarbil vazhum Lakshmi
Sri Vaikundathai AAlum Lakshmi
Devargal Potrum Mahalakshmi
Thiruvarul Puriya Vara vedum
Carefully lift the goddess along with the palaka/plank and come inside the house,walk slowly and carefully place the goddess inside the mandapam on the banana leaf laid with rice. If you have a another lady or your own daughter you can help, ask them to hold the other end of the palaga and slowly walk together. since it was only me doing, i did all by myself. Always keep in mind it is a delicate kalasam, have bhaya and bhakthi together while entering with the kalasam.
Light lamps near the mandapam, The Pooja details is generally given in Vratha Pooja Book, but then i m giving a general outline. First vinayagar pooja is done. Then we do Sankalpam, chanting the day, year, thithi and naksthara and seeking goddess blessing for the whole family.
Next comes the kalasa pooja, where we invoke the almighty to come and adorn the kalasam and accept our pooja. Then Lakshmi Ashohram is chanted. After the Neivedhiyam/Offering, we perform pooja for the Sacred thread which will be worn on the right hand. 
This is how i perform the varalakshmi vratham pooja. The kalasam is kept like that till next day morning. Next day again we do a simple pooja and neivedhiya/offering. In the evening, after the lighting lamps and a simple offering,  we move the kalasam towards north symbolizing the end of the pooja and in the night before going to sleep the kalasam is kept inside the rice pot and next day morning, the decoration are removed, the rice is used for regular cooking and the coconut is used to make sweet/dessert and the lemon is juiced.



Monday, September 28, 2015

Trip to Pykara Lake and The Hot Aloo Parathas

We are in the last week of Mega BM Buffet on the Table, and this week our team leader gave us a free choice to blog about anything we love to do, not  necessarily food. So, i choose to blog about our recent trip to Ooty, pykara lake in particular and the delicious lunch we had in a small shack there.
It is only recently, we started to travel during vacation. Last year we went to Thanjavur, in TamilNadu,  mainly to see The Big Temple, Brihadeseshwara Temple, an architecture marvel of India. It was mostly like a temple visit, we visited around 11 temples in a day, Thanks to Nalini suresh's dad, if not for him,  it wouldn't be possible. My elder one named that vacation as Pilgrimage, he said that me and his father took him on a pilgrimage in the name of vacation, to anyone who asked about it.
So,when we started to plan for this vacation, he strictly told, if it is going to be a temple visit, i m not coming. So, this vacation was out and out sight-seeing, nestling with nature and fun.
We planned Ooty and surroundings for a 4-day trip. It was a vacation, we will cherish for a life-time. The amazing view of the hills and that climate was totally awesome. The city sleeps by 7 in the night,oh yeah, all tourist spots, close by 6, and night falls very quickly, and by 7 it is pitch dark. It is so unusual for us,as we have daylight till 7:30 during summer here in Dubai, and we normally start out from house only after 8 in the night, the whole city comes to life in the night, most of the locations, even eateries are open till midnight. 
The hotel we stayed Meadows residency, had a good tourist car operations. We happened to get a good driver, who planned the trip so well. The day we reached Ooty, we went to Doddabetta, the highest peak in south-india. We could literally touch the clouds, blow out smoke from our mouth. Both my kiddo's loved doing that. The whole place was dotted with shops selling hot hot chana,charred corn and Tea and not to forget Fresh carrots, beets and radishes. Wherever we go, apart from the sight-seeing, we are so particular about food. Me and my hubby don't mind eating fresh veggies and have a hot tea as a meal. But with kids in tow, we cannot neglect the food part!! Since we returned to our hotel at 7, we found a good vegetarian hotel next to our place and we had nice meal. 
The whole night went in talking about Doddabetta. Next day we went to Pykara Lake, boat house. It is about 19 kms from Ooty, the whole journey was like we are walking on a green carpet. Clouds were ready to pour anytime. You can stop, anywhere in the middle to get a bite of fresh char-grilled corn rubbed with little lime and chili powder or to have some hot chana or to taste fresh carrots straight from the field.
Bala loves fresh fruits and veggies so he enjoyed the corn and carrots with us, but kuttu, would run a mile, if i ask him to taste a fresh carrot. After an awesome boat ride in the lake, we were terribly hungry. There was no proper place to eat near the boat house, so we travelled near pykara waterfalls.
There were numerous small shacks, selling food, but very few were vegetarian. 
Atlast we managed to enter a small gujarati eatery. It didn't have a great look, made out of asbestos/aluminum sheets, with neatly swept mud-floor and properly arranged chairs and table. We were the only customers inside, one of the waiters came and asked what we would like to have, we asked for the menu, he said they have aloo paratha and gobi paratha. We ordered one aloo paratha, to check the taste. 
We waited for about 10 minutes, came our aloo paratha, with jhol by the side. It was served straight from the stove, hot, hot ,hot!!! I took a bite and it was out of the world. The spice was right to our taste, we ordered another 3 without green chilies. It was served hot and it vanished it minutes. 
We ordered another 3 gobi paratha. This time, i asked whether, i can come and see their kitchen. They happily agreed, i was like a kid in a candy shop. Went into their small kitchen with my camera and clicked as they made parathas.
They had a small single burner stove, with a round tava, on which they cooked the parathas, two at a time. 
They had another big square tava, which can cook 6 parathas at time, which they use during peak season, where they will be more tourists. It is a small place, but kept pretty neat. 
Loved their parathas, and defintely would recommend to anybody travelling there. 
Looking at our interest, they gave their visiting card, and told about their restaurant in Ooty town, he even invited us for dinner that day, promising special attention.  We left the place, with happy faces and full tummy. 


Sunday, September 27, 2015

Mixed Millets Porridge/Millets Kanji Maavu/Sathumaavu Kanji using Millets

Porridge is an essential part of our food chain right from our birth. Apart from mother's milk, a new born is sometimes fed with Parboiled rice porridge. Later, starts mashed rice and lentil porridge, sometimes with mashed veggies. As a grown up we too at times prefer porridge for our breakfast.So, as a final touch to the Breakfast Genre, i bring you a Sathumaavu kanji using Mixed millets. 
2 or 3 years back, I frequetly used to make oats porridge or Poha porridge. When i switched to millets, i changed to leftover millets porridge with varagu/kodo millet and Kambu/pearl millet, but these were cold porridge, served with curd or buttermilk. 
Both my kiddos love the Ragi and cashewnut porridge, when served warm with lots of roasted cashews on top. So, i tried making this mixed millets kanji maavu at home, to satisfy our sudden hunger pangs, especially the little ones, and also as an easy and healthy breakfast option for adults, when we don't have anything at hand. All it takes is 10 minutes to make this porridge mix and you don't need any fancy equipment to grind,our simple mixie jar is fine. 
This ingredients makes a 200 grams bottle full of powder, which will last you a week full, if you are making this everyday.  Totally healthy, preservative free and since i have made this using organic millets, i can also add chemical free!!!!
Ingredients
2 tbsp varagu arisi/Kodo millet
2 tbsp Thinai arisi/foxtail millet
2 tbsp saamai arisi/Little millet
2 tbsp Kuthiraivaali/Barnyard millet
2 tbsp chutney dal/Potukadalai/Roasted gram
2 tbsp badam/almonds
Method

  • Dry roast all the millets together. To the hot roasted millets, add almonds and roasted gram. Let it cool for 10 minutes.
  • Take the ingredients in a mixer and grind it to a fine powder.  Store the powder in an air-tight container. 
To Make the Porridge/Kanji
Ingredients
2 tbsp of porridge powder
1.5 cups of milk
2 tsp sugar or to taste
a generous sprinkle of cinnamon
2 pinches of cardamom powder 
an almond chopped fine and few raisins for garnish

Method
  • Heat milk in a sauce pan, Mix the kanji powder in 1/4 cup of water and make a thin liquid. Add cardamom powder and sugar to the boiling milk. 
  • Reduce the flame and add the kanji liquid to the milk, mix well. and cook in a slow flame until the kanji thickens. Take it off the stove and transfer it on to a bowl. sprinkle cinnamon, garnish with raisins and almonds and serve warm. 
Sending this to Come,join us for breakfast, happening @ +srivalli jetti space.



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